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Port of Houstonís test trucks handle like golf carts {Hydrogen Fuel Cells}
Fuel Fix ^ | April 15, 2013 | Jeannie Kever

Posted on 04/16/2013 5:24:53 AM PDT by thackney

For decades, the image of the 18-wheeler has been that of a smoke-belching behemoth, the grinding gears and hissing brakes synonymous with the power of the diesel engine.

But a 20-truck fleet powered by hydrogen fuel cells will begin rolling across the Port of Houston later this year in a test of whether the vehicles can improve air quality and still provide enough heavy lifting to handle cargo.

In the largest demonstration project of its kind, the electric fleet will unload containers from ships and deliver them to a Wal-Mart warehouse.

“We’re looking at our carbon footprint,” said Aston Hinds, senior environmental affairs manager for the port. “If the technology proves out, that would make this potentially quite appealing.”

Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of source materials. In this case, it will come from natural gas to take advantage of the low price and abundant supply.

A $3.4 million grant from the Department of Energy will cover much of the cost; participating businesses also will absorb some of the expenses. A $500,000 grant from the Texas Emission Reduction Program will help pay for a hydrogen fueling station, which will be open to the public.

Fuel cells convert hydrogen to electricity, producing water as a byproduct; the electricity powers the trucks’ motors.

They are promoted as having zero emissions and near-silent operations.

“It’s like driving a golf cart,” said Vic La Rosa, president of Total Transportation Services, which will provide drivers.

People have talked about the potential of hydrogen-powered vehicles for years, but unanswered questions – including whether the market is large enough to justify building them, and whether the fuel will be readily available – have stalled development.

Unlike efforts to expand the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, however, this project isn’t aimed at creating a broader market for hydrogen vehicles.

“We’re not expecting to see a hydrogen station on every corner,” said Elena Craft, a health scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund Texas office, which was instrumental in securing the funding.

It is, instead, about determining whether the trucks work well enough to play a viable role in the battle against dirty air.

Hydrogen by pipeline

The Houston-Galveston Area Council funneled the grant to several key players: Total Transportation Services; Vision Motor Corp., which will manufacture the trucks in California; and Air Products, which will produce and deliver the hydrogen through a pipeline.

The Department of Energy grant was available for zero-emission freight transport equipment, and Craft said only Houston and Los Angeles were eligible because the two regions historically have had the nation’s most serious ozone problems. Houston’s air quality has improved over the past two decades, but it remains in violation of federal limits for ozone, or smog – a potential health hazard created when sunlight heats chemicals emitted mostly by tailpipes and smokestacks.

Craft said this project will be the first “semi-large-scale” demonstration of the technology, with the first trucks expected to arrive in Houston late this year.

Hydrogen was chosen as a fuel both because it is cleaner than natural gas and because the hydrogen-powered electric motors are more powerful than internal combustion engines fueled by liquefied natural gas, said Shelley Whitworth, air quality program director for the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

Replacing 20 diesel-powered trucks with hydrogen-powered trucks could have a measurable impact, even among the hundreds of trucks that rumble across port property every year. The Environmental Defense Fund calculated that the project could replace 200,000 gallons of diesel a year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2,180 tons.

That’s significant, but Whitworth said the real goal is to see how well the trucks work.

“It’s one thing to have a really clean truck, but it’s another to have them operate as needed,” she said.

Vision Motor Corp. previously has built two hydrogen-powered heavy duty trucks. Vision CEO Martin Schuermann said Total Transportation Services is testing the vehicles at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Vision was founded in 2008 and also makes a smaller, hydrogen-powered terminal tractor.

$270,000 each

The Port of Houston project is the company’s biggest contract yet, Schuermann said.

He said each truck is expected to cost $270,000 once it goes into commercial production, but the project cost is slightly higher, at $300,000.

Whitworth said it’s common for a technology to be more expensive in early stages.

La Rosa, whose company also operates trucks that run on natural gas and conventional diesel, said his drivers love the hydrogen-powered trucks “1,000 percent better, because they don’t go home at night smelling like diesel.”

Total Transportation Services began working at the Port of Houston last year, and La Rosa said the company hopes to expand here.

Rather than competing with the oil companies, he said he hopes this project can, once proven, serve as a way to offer zero-emissions technology to the oil and gas industry.

Greener energy

Replacing 20 diesel-powered trucks with hydrogen-powered vehicles could have an effect on air quality. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the annual emissions displaced include:

39 tons: nitrogen oxides

0.8 tons: particulate matter

2,180 tons: carbon dioxide


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: energy; houston; hydrogen; naturalgas
It is unclear to me that the environmental claims include the energy consumed and waste products released in the steam reforming of Natural Gas to make the Hydrogen.
1 posted on 04/16/2013 5:24:53 AM PDT by thackney
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To: thackney
A $500,000 grant from the Texas Emission Reduction Program will help pay for a hydrogen fueling station, which will be open to the public.

Because so many of us have vehicles that run on hydrogen.

2 posted on 04/16/2013 5:29:18 AM PDT by unixfox (Abolish Slavery, Repeal The 16th Amendment!)
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To: thackney

I have just watched that old thing, the naked gun 2 1/2 with Leslie Nielsen.

Obama’s energy program is exactly the same as that movie’s Dr, Meinheimer’s.

You’re living a Leslie Nielsen cartoon.


3 posted on 04/16/2013 5:31:14 AM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com (Vendetta))
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To: unixfox

What exactly is a “Health Scientist”? Do they come with a uniform? Like a boob belt?


4 posted on 04/16/2013 5:33:17 AM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com (Vendetta))
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To: thackney
It is, instead, about determining whether the trucks work well enough to play a viable role in the battle against dirty air.

Great ,, trade out the dirty air for dirty water,, not to mention the loss of power.

5 posted on 04/16/2013 5:33:26 AM PDT by piroque ("In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act")
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To: thackney

It is unclear to me that the environmental claims include the energy consumed and waste products released in the steam reforming of Natural Gas to make the Hydrogen.

...and if that isn’t enough, the funding of the project by a B R O K E federal government giving more of your cash money and dollars borrowed at your expense, ought to be sufficient reason to be smelling the same manure different day. Here we are singing that old, Buck Owens favorite “snookered again”.


6 posted on 04/16/2013 5:41:14 AM PDT by wita
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To: thackney

How much fuel (usually coal) is burned to convert the gas into magical Hydrogen? How much advanced manufacturing and industrial waste is required for each fuel cell?

They would probably be better off running the trucks directly on natural gas. Many cities do so with their bus fleets and the exhaust IS much cleaner than diesel.


7 posted on 04/16/2013 5:41:22 AM PDT by varyouga
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To: varyouga
How much fuel (usually coal) is burned to convert the gas into magical Hydrogen?

Steam reforming is more of a heat added process than requiring significant electrical power, Natural Gas is used by Air Products for the Heat.

http://www.airproducts.com/microsite/h2-pipeline/pdf/air-products-US-gulf-coast-hydrogen-network-dataSheet.pdf

In Texas, we get 46% of our electrical power from Natural Gas, 36% from coal.

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/annual_generation_state.xls

8 posted on 04/16/2013 5:52:08 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney
Port of Houston’s test trucks handle like golf carts

They roll when you're full of beer and take a turn at full speed on a hill?

Or so I hear.

9 posted on 04/16/2013 5:55:41 AM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: dead
They roll when you're full of beer and take a turn at full speed on a hill?

My brother has done that. I was behind him in another cart.

The spray of clubs flying through the air was nearly a thing of beauty.

At least I thought so because my clubs were in my cart, not his.

10 posted on 04/16/2013 5:58:49 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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11 posted on 04/16/2013 5:59:39 AM PDT by deoetdoctrinae (The Old White Flag Republicans can go straight to He// and take their pal Obama with them!)
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To: varyouga

When I was a kid, I would sniff the diesel bus exhaust. Sweetest smell ever :).

Made me a hobbit.


12 posted on 04/16/2013 6:21:55 AM PDT by Hardraade (http://junipersec.wordpress.com (Vendetta))
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To: varyouga

The cheapest way to make hydrogen is reforming natural gas. A relatively cheap and clean process and nagural gas is cheap right now. Since they are using the trucks on site, a way to store usefull amounts of hydrogen in the truck is a much smaller problem.

The question about the fuel cell is more germane, the manufacture process is not as dirty as solar cells or batteries but it does involve mining precious metals. I am all for mining but an environmentalist would probably have issues.

Burning NG would probably be about as efficient as the fuel cells when you consider the energy used in reforming the NG and storing the hydrogen but electric motors have more low end torque than ICE when looking at them pound for pound so for moving loads around the plants, the electric trucks may make sense.

I wouldn’t have a knee jerk response to fuel cells just because they through out the environment verbage, they could make sense economically, Let the market decide.


13 posted on 04/16/2013 7:15:36 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: thackney

Solid Oxide fuel cell technology is rapidly improving. I expect to see them replacing PEM in the next 10 years. If that is the case, there would be no need for reforming the fuel.


14 posted on 04/16/2013 7:17:24 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: thackney

Maybe fuel cell trucks will catch on better than fuel cell tractors: http://www.ebay.com/itm/2009-ALLIS-CHALMERS-FUEL-CELL-TRACTORS-1959-Advertisement-Article-LOOKING-BACK-/190748234169?pt=AU_AdvertisingCollectables&hash=item2c697b11b9


15 posted on 04/16/2013 7:17:44 AM PDT by Western Phil
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To: dangerdoc

Has there been some advancement allowing lower operating temperatures for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells?


16 posted on 04/16/2013 7:20:45 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: Western Phil

That was a heavy beast.

this 20 horsepower tractor weighed 5270 pounds...
http://www.yesterdaystractors.com/articles/artint207.htm


17 posted on 04/16/2013 7:30:32 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Yeah, operating temps about half of where they were a decade ago. They still run hot enough to reform their own fuel but low enough for the use of non exotic metals for the structural materials.


18 posted on 04/16/2013 7:39:28 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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